The women’s basketball team soared past no. 8 Niagara by the final score of 66-62, in the first round of the MAAC Championships on Thursday, March 7. With the win, the Hawks were set to face top-seeded Iona on Friday, March 8. The Purple Eagles ended their season at 10-20.
Freshman forward Christina Mitchell led the way for the blue and white, posting a double-double of a career-high 14 points and 13 rebounds. Among those was a pivotal rebound and put-back in the closing minute of the game.
Senior forward Chevannah Paalvast compiled 12 points and four rebounds, while freshman guard Helena Kurt added 11 points and four assists. Sophomore guard Jasmine Walker and freshman guard Mia Hopkins both chipped in with eight points.
As for Niagara, Chanel Johnson had 14 points and six rebounds. Meghan McGuinness posted 13 points, while Taylor McKay and Val McQuade contributed 11 points apiece. Kelly Van Leeuwen dished out a game-high nine assists.
The Purple Eagles scored the game’s first four points. They then added to the lead off of a transition turnover, holding a six point lead with 12:18 remaining in the first. With MU still trailing by four, freshman center Sophie Beaudry hit a free-throw that started a 10-0 run for the Hawks.
Sophomore guard Kasey Chambers knocked down a three-pointer from the top of the key to tie up the game at 21-21 with just over five minutes before halftime. With 3:35 left in the half, the blue and white gained their first lead of the game thanks to senior forward Shira Shecht’s two free-throws. Kurt added a lay-up to complete the 10-0 run increasing MU’s lead to 27-21 with 1:43 left in the first.
Johnson scored the final three points of the half to chip into the Hawks lead. At the break, the blue and white led 27-24.
The Purple Eagles started off the second half with a three-pointer to tie the game. This half had a lot of back and forth until Niagara jumped out to an 8-0 run and led MU by the score of 57-49.
With 7:01 remaining in the game, the Hawks went on a 7-0 run and cut the lead to 57-56. Junior forward Sara English scored off of a post move to put the blue and white ahead 60-59 with 3:07 left.
With just over a minute to go, Hopkins nailed a 14-foot jumper to increase the lead to 62-59. McKay was sent to the line and hit 1-of-2 free-throws with 1:03 left. The Hawks used the entire 30 seconds to set up a play, as Paalvast took a jumper at the buzzer but, Mitchell grabbed the rebound and scored off a put back to give the Hawks a 66-60 lead with 31 seconds remaining. Johnson hit two free-throws to trim the deficit to 64-62. Hopkins also hit a pair of her own, to end the game at 66-62.
For the game, MU outshot Niagara, 41.8 percent to 35.9 percent from the floor and 77.8 percent to 69.2 percent from the free-throw line.
“I’m just cloud-nine excited right now. I’m really happy for this group. We’ve been through a lot this year,” said head coach Jenny Palmateer. “It’s been a lot of ups and downs. As the newbies to the conference and to be able to pull off a win against a very-talented Niagara team that has just caused us fits all season long, it’s really great to be advancing in the tournament. I’m really happy that we’re able to stay another day and experience this great MAAC Tournament.”
The Hawks then fell to Iona by the final score of 71-56.
Paalvast led the way for the blue and white scoring 13 points including her 1,000th in her career. She became the 17th player in Monmouth Division I history to score 1,000 career points. Kurt also contributed 13 points, which ties her season-high. She also dished out three assists. Walker tallied her third double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
For Iona, Joy Adams scored a double-double of her own compiling 29 points and 16 rebounds, eight of which were on the offensive glass. She also added five steals. Damika Martinez scored 23 points and grabbed five rebounds.
In the beginning of the game, Iona jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but the Hawks answered back scoring six of the next seven points to tie the game at 6-6. Adams broke the 8-8 tie with a jumper at the 16:08 mark in the first; the Gaels would not trail the remainder of the half.
Paalvast and freshman forward Jenny Horvatinovic answered an Adams three-pointer with back to back jumpers to cut the lead, but, Iona went on a 7-0 increasing the lead to as many as 12 points.
By half time, the Hawks were down 33-25. The blue and white trailed by nine, with 17 minutes left in the game, until they capped a 7-0 run. Walker started things off with a three; Kurt followed with a steal and knocked down a jumper. Walker ended the run with a lay-up with 15:38 to play.
The run extended to 13-3 when Paalvast hit a three-pointer, and Beaudry scored on a conventional three-point play to give MU their first lead of the game 42-41 at the 13:13 mark in the second half. Their first lead was thanks to a 17-4 run in just over five minutes.
With the game tied 48-48 with 7:47 remaining, the Gaels went on an incredible 23-8 run to end the game with the final score of 71-56.
“I’m really disappointed. We came into this game with high hopes,” said Coach Palmateer. “We ran out of gas a little bit and they’re a team that can take advantage of that, and take advantage in a hurry. But I’m really proud of our team.”